Social work is a dynamic profession but one that can be stressful. Many individuals enter the field due to their passion for making a difference in the lives of others. As with other helping professions we can fall prey to burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma and, in some cases, those stressors can lead to actual impairment of professional judgment and duties. NASW’s mission is to “advance, protect and advocate for social workers and the social work profession.” We care deeply about the health and well-being of ALL social workers. We hope the following information and resources can assist you in taking care of yourself. If you are an NASW member and wish to consult with a colleague about self-care, or receive ethical, legal or practice consultation please contact the Chapter Office.
NEW! NASW-NC Position Statement on Social Work Wellness
NASW-NC has developed a positions statement called: "Social Work Wellness: Integration of Physical Activity to Promote Health and Wellness among Social Workers," researched and written by NASW-NC Board of Directors member Eric Tucker, MSW, LCSW with a call to increase physical activity and overall wellness in social work programming.
Research suggests that social workers are at a higher risk of work-related stress, burnout, and a lower quality of life compared to the general population and other health professionals. The primary mission of the profession calls social workers to enhance the well-being of all people with particular attention to basic needs and biopsychosocial functioning of marginalized populations. While the field has primarily focused on quality of care provided to others within a social context, this paper will examine the significance of social work wellness within the context of the social work mission.
The purpose of this position statement is to advocate social workers to increase physical activity levels as a viable, cost-effective adjunct intervention for the promotion of health and wellness.
Professional self-care is critical in preventing burnout and maintaining a balanced work/life perspective. We owe it to ourselves, our profession and our clients to practice self-care. There are numerous resources that are specific to self-care for helping professionals and we have identified many of those resources below:
Burnout can easily occur when we are not practicing self-care and/or when the demands of the job simply become too overwhelming. Our profession has done a great job in selling one’s self as “the” profession that can do it all. Unfortunately many agencies now expect their staff to do it all and do it 24/7. To prevent burnout it is essential that social workers practice self-care and be informed of the signs and symptoms of burnout. Click on the links below for information about burnout within social work and other helping professions:
Compassion Fatigue and Secondary Traumatic Stress
While compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress are different they can both result from the constant emotional overload of dealing with, seeing and hearing about constant trauma in the lives of clients. Symptoms can mimic those of PTSD and can be quite distressing. More is being learned and written about both compassion fatigue and traumatic stress. Click on the links below for relevant resources.
Professional impairment occurs when something in the professional's life interferes with their ability to perform their job to the best of their ability, sometimes in a manner that can be unethical. Types of impairment include self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, maladaptive coping skills, addictions of any kind, unresolved grief, eating disorders, mental health, and more. Click on the links for more information and resources on Impairment in the social work profession:
We do not want anyone to get into trouble for seeking help for their impairment or to encourage anyone to report their colleagues to supervisors or state agencies. However, we do recommend that you familiarize yourself with the portions of the NASW Code of Ethics and the state licensing board position surrounding the issue of professional impairment.
“2.09 Impairment of Colleagues
(a) Social workers who have direct knowledge of a social work colleague’s impairment that is due to personal problems, psychosocial distress, substance abuse, or mental health difficulties and that interferes with practice effectiveness should consult with that colleague when feasible and assist the colleague in taking remedial action.
(b) Social workers who believe that a social work colleague’s impairment interferes with practice effectiveness and that the colleague has not taken adequate steps to address the impairment should take action through appropriate channels established by employers, agencies, NASW, licensing and regulatory bodies, and other professional organizations.”
(a) Social workers should not allow their own personal problems, psychosocial distress, legal problems, substance abuse, or mental health difficulties to interfere with their professional judgment and performance or to jeopardize the best interests of people for whom they have a professional responsibility.
(b) Social workers whose personal problems, psychosocial distress, legal problems, substance abuse, or mental health difficulties interfere with their professional judgment and performance should immediately seek consultation and take appropriate remedial action by seeking professional help, making adjustments in workload, terminating practice, or taking any other steps necessary to protect clients and others.”
".0505 RELATIONSHIPS WITH COLLEAGUES
(5) Social workers shall take appropriate measures to discourage, prevent, expose and correct unethical or incompetent behavior by colleagues, but shall take equally appropriate steps to assist and defend colleagues unjustly charged with such conduct.”
You should never feel afraid or ashamed for needing help! It is far better to seek help before you or clients are adversely affected. NASW-NC lists these self-declared providers as a courtesy. We DO NOT endorse, recommend or refer to any one provider.
The information provided on this webpage is for all professionals, not just the members of our professional association. We recognize the need for distributing this information and resources across all helping professions. NASW-NC Works to promote the social work profession in its entirety, not just those who are members. If you are interested in membership, you can go to "Join/Renew" above or click here to view a full list of the benefits to out members.